Congress reacts to 'under God' ruling

By CHRIS H. SIEROTY   |   June 26, 2002 at 9:29 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 26 (UPI) -- The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution "expressing support for the Pledge of Allegiance" and asking Senate counsel to "seek to intervene in the case."

By a vote of 99-0, the resolution passed shortly after a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that the Pledge of Allegiance was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion with the words, "under God" inserted after "one nation."

In a speech on the Senate floor just before the vote, Sen. Robert Byrd said, "I wonder if that judge would hold the Declaration of Independence unconstitutional."

Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, is the only remaining member of Congress who voted for the addition of "under God" on June 7 in 1954.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who in a previous political life was the 35th mayor of San Francisco, urged the U.S. Supreme Court to promptly overturn the decision.

"I find the 9th Circuit Court's opinion embarrassing at best," said Feinstein. "This nation from its foundation has had a belief in God, and has a long tradition of expressing that belief."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert said the decision underscores the need for the Senate to "confirm some common sense jurists."

"Obviously, the liberal court in San Francisco has gotten this one wrong," said Hastert, R-Ill., in a statement. "Of course, we are one nation, under God. The Pledge of Allegiance is a patriotic salute that brings people of all faiths together to share in the American spirit.

"I strongly believe that parents, teachers and local schools should encourage children to recite the pledge to start the day, the same way those of us in Congress begin our daily business, not allow a liberal judge to take it away. It's time for the Senate to move forward and confirm some common sense jurists," Hastert said.

Also on Wednesday some 150 House members -- mostly Republicans -- gathered on the steps outside the Capitol to recite the pledge in a show of support.

According to the federal court ruling, Rep. Tom Delay, R-Texas, noted that U.S. currency; the presidential Oath of Office; the Supreme Court; and the House of Representatives might also be banned as unconstitutional.

"When the president says 'God bless America' should he be banned? I stand with the tradition that allows the president to put his hand on the Bible and uphold the constitution," Delay said. "It is sad that at a time when our country is coming together this court is driving a wedge between us with their absurd ruling."

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